Posts for: December, 2014

By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
December 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
NoGleeinToothGrinding

Sure, it’s big news when celebs tweet selfies from the dental office… if you’re still living in the 20th century. But in Hollywood today, it’s harder to say who hasn’t posted snaps of themselves in the dentist’s chair than who has. Yet the pictures recently uploaded to Twitter by Mark Salling, the actor and singer who regularly appears as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the popular TV series Glee, made us sit up and take notice.

“Getting my chipped tooth fixed. Also, apparently, I’m a big grinder,” read the caption. The photo showed a set of upper front teeth with visible chips on the biting surface. What’s so special about this seemingly mundane tweet? It’s a great way of bringing attention to a relatively common, but often overlooked problem: teeth clenching and grinding, also called bruxism.

Although bruxism is a habit that affects scores of people, many don’t even realize they have it. That’s because the condition may only become active at night. When the teeth are unconsciously ground together, the forces they produce can wear down the enamel, cause chipping or damage to teeth or dental work (such as veneers or fillings), or even loosen a tooth! While it’s common in children under 11 years old, in adults it can be a cause for concern.

Sometimes, mouth pain, soreness and visible damage alert individuals to their grinding habits; other times, a dental professional will notice the evidence of bruxism during an exam or cleaning: tooth sensitivity and telltale wear and tear on the chewing surfaces. Either way, it’s time to act.

Bruxism is most often caused by stress, which can negatively impact the body in many ways. It may also result from bite problems, the overuse of stimulating substances (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs), and as a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes, simply becoming aware of the habit can help a person get it under control. Common methods of stress reduction include exercise, meditation, a warm bath or a quiet period before bedtime; these can be tried while we monitor the situation to see if the problem is going away.

If stress reduction alone doesn’t do the trick, several other methods can be effective. When bruxism is caused by a minor bite problem, we can sometimes do a minor “bite adjustment” in the office. This involves removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth that is out of position, bringing it in line with the others. If it’s a more serious malocclusion, orthodontic appliances or other procedures may be recommended.

When grinding is severe enough to damage teeth or dental work, we may also recommend a custom-made night guard (occlusal guard), which you put in your mouth at bedtime. Comfortable and secure, this appliance prevents your teeth from being damaged by contacting each other, and protects your jaw joints from stresses due to excessive grinding forces.

Whether or not you have to smile for a living, teeth grinding can be a big problem. If you would like more information about this condition, call our office to schedule a consultation for a consultation.


By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
December 26, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   snoring   sleep apnea  
YourDentistcanHelpGuideyouintheBestTreatmentOptionforSleepApnea

Do you still feel tired or unfocused even after a full night’s sleep? Do others complain about your snoring? It’s possible these are signs that you may have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing while you sleep. Your brain will awaken you to breathe, although you may not consciously realize it since the waking period can be less than a second. But it does disrupt your sleep rhythm, especially during the all-important deep sleep period called Rapid Eye Movement (REM). These disruptions don’t allow your body to receive the full benefit of sleep, hence your lack of energy and focus during the day.

One of the most common causes for sleep apnea is the collapse of soft tissues near the throat as they relax during sleep that restrict the airway. Snoring is an indication this may be occurring: air vibrates rapidly (and loudly) as it passes through this restriction when you breathe in.

As your dentist, we’re well-trained in the anatomy and function of the entire oral structure, and qualified to offer solutions for sleep apnea. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea (after a complete examination, including an observation session at a sleep laboratory), we can then help you decide on a treatment approach. The following are three such options, depending on the severity of your sleep apnea.

Oral Appliance Therapy. An oral appliance you wear while you sleep is a first line treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea. The appliance, which we custom design for you, helps hold the lower jaw in a forward position: this moves the tongue and other soft structures away from the back of the throat, thereby opening the airway.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). Intended for more moderate to severe forms of sleep apnea, a CPAP machine produces continuous air pressure to the throat through a mask you wear during sleep. This forces the tongue forward and the airway open.

Surgical Intervention. These procedures remove excess tissue that may be obstructing the airway. Due to its invasiveness and permanent alteration of the throat area, surgery is reserved for patients who haven’t responded to other therapies in a satisfactory manner.

Whether mild or severe, it’s possible to effectively treat sleep apnea. If successful, not only will you benefit from better sleep and greater alertness, you’ll also improve your long-term health.

If you would like more information on treating sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”


By J. Marie Stidham, DMD, PA
December 11, 2014
Category: Oral Health
ActressJennieGarthSharesTipsforMakingOralHealthFun

Plenty of parents use little tricks to persuade young ones to eat their vegetables, wash their hands, or get to bed on time. But when actress Jennie Garth wanted to help her kids develop healthy dental habits, she took it a step further, as she explained in a recent interview on Fox News.

“Oh my gosh, there's a froggy in your teeth!” the star of the '90s hit series Beverly Hills 90210 would tell her kids. “I've got to get him out!”

When her children — daughters Luca, Lola, and Fiona — spit out the toothpaste, Garth would surreptitiously slip a small toy frog into the sink and pretend it had come from one of their mouths. This amused the kids so much that they became engaged in the game, and let her brush their teeth for as long as necessary.

Garth's certainly got the right idea. Teaching children to develop good oral hygiene habits as early as possible helps set them up for a lifetime of superior dental health. Parents should establish a brushing routine with their kids starting around age 2, when the mouth is becoming filled with teeth. A soft, child's size toothbrush with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste and plenty of parental help is good for toddlers. By around age 6, when they've developed more manual dexterity, the kids can start taking over the job themselves.

Here's another tip: It's easy to find out how good a cleaning job your kids are doing on their own teeth. Over-the counter products are available that use a system of color coding to identify the presence of bacterial plaque. With these, you can periodically check whether children are brushing effectively. Another way of checking is less precise, but it works anywhere: Just teach them to run their tongue over their teeth. If the teeth fell nice and smooth, they're probably clean, too. If not... it's time to pull out the frog.

And don't forget about the importance of regular dental checkups — both for your kids and yourself. “Like anything, I think our kids mirror what we do,” says Garth. We couldn't agree more.

If you need more information about helping kids develop good oral hygiene — or if it's time for a checkup — don't hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”